The National Dawn
Tokyo, September 30, 2020
Japan and Russia have agreed to discuss territorial negotiations with reference to their 1956 joint declaration, a Japanese government official said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to this during their telephone conversation.
Speaking to reporters after the talks, Suga said, “I would like to put an end to the Northern Territory issue without leaving it to the next generation.”
The two leaders highlighted an accord former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Putin struck in 2018 to take forward talks based on the declaration stipulating that Moscow will hand over two of four disputed islands off Hokkaido to Tokyo after they conclude a peace treaty.
Japan and the then Soviet Union diplomatic turned normal under the 1956 Accord. It involves the two smaller islands — Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
The decades-old dispute over the islands, also involving Kunashiri and Etorofu, has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty after World War II.
The Soviet Union seized the islands following Japan’s surrender in 1945. Tokyo argues the annexation was illegal and demands their return, while Moscow says it was a legitimate outcome of the war.
Suga said he told Mr Putin he would like to further develop overall bilateral relations. He quoted Putin as telling him that Moscow is ready to continue dialogue on “all bilateral issues.”
The two agreed to meet in person soon to hold frank discussions, according to the prime minister.
Russian presidential office did not refer to the territorial issue and peace treaty in a report by the Kremlin press service about the Suga-Putin talks, a sign of reluctance by Moscow to take up the territorial issue.
The two leaders discussed prospects of co-operation on health care including the development of coronavirus vaccines, according to the presidential office.
In the 20-minute conversation, held at the request of the Japanese government, Putin told Suga that he was ready to “cooperate constructively” on a range of bilateral and international issues, a Japanese official said.
The leaders agreed to develop Japan-Russia relations as a whole, including in the fields of politics, economics and culture, the official said.
Hours before the talks, Russia announced the start of military exercises on Kunashiri and Etorofu, involving more than 1,500 personnel and 200 machine guns and artillery pieces.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Russia gave Japan advance notice of the drills last Thursday. Japan lodged a protest through diplomatic channels.
“Such actions are unacceptable as they will lead to a strengthening of Russia’s military presence on the islands and are incompatible with Japan’s position,” Kato said at a press conference.
Progress is tardy despite the Abe-Putin agreement to promote territorial talks based on the 1956 declaration.
After announcing in late August his decision to resign due to health problems, Abe agreed with Putin by phone on the need for ongoing efforts to resolve the issue.
Since his election as prime minister by the parliament on September 16, Suga has held a series of phone calls with world leaders including US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae In.
The National Dawn